As a non-Japanese woman living in Japan, and as a representative of Being A Broad, I feel it is my duty to share the following story. It’s a slightly different topic to my usual posts, and it’s definitely one for the ladies! 😉
So, one of the annoying and troublesome things about being a foreign woman in Japan, is having to figure out a way to get “the pill” (if you want it). It still isn’t commonly used by Japanese women, and therefore it’s not so easy to get hold of. I’ve managed so far – 2 years and 4 months – using the ones I brought with me, getting more when I went home, finding a legit website where I could get a few packs, and only once having to visit the doctor in Japan. When I finally did visit the doctor, it was a strange experience. I went to see a doctor in Nagoya, recommended by a friend because he spoke English. Well, he did speak English, but I don’t think he was actually that good. After the dreaded examination (which, by the way ladies, is even more humiliating and icky in Japan!), he gave me a pill I had never seen before called Triquilar 21. He assured me it was just the same as the one I’d been taking. It wasn’t.
Before, I have taken Microgynon 30 and Ovranette, which are basically the same. They are the kind where you have 21 pills which are the same, and then 7 days off. Triquilar 21 does indeed have 21 pills, but it’s actually a “triphasic” rather than a “monophasic” pill. Basically, that means it has three different colour pills with different amounts of hormones in them, instead of all the pills being the same colour and with the same amounts of hormones in them.
Anyway, I can’t be sure it was the Triquilar, but my moods have been crazy lately, and I feel like it’s probably to blame. So I realised it was time I found a new doctor in Hamamatsu.
I asked another friend to recommend an English-speaking doctor, and it turned out there was one nearby. So, today, after my Japanese class, I bravely set off on my mission. When you see a doctor in Japan, it seems to be perfectly normal to just show up with no appointment and wait, so that’s what I was prepared to do. However, when I got to the clinic it was closed for lunch until 3:30pm. Doh. So, I went home, and came back just before 3:30.
Of course, when I returned to the clinic, there were lots of other people waiting. I had expected to have to wait, but I waited so long I actually finished the book I was reading! I finally got to see the doctor at about 4:50. I had given the nurse the packet from my Microgynon 30, so the doctor could be prepared.
As I entered the room, the doctor was scowling at the packet. He spoke English, but heavily accented and very broken. He asked me if the packet was from England. I said it was. He scowled some more. He told me Japan doesn’t have this medicine. So, I launched into the story of the Triquilar. I told him what had happened, and that I knew (from friends) that it was possible to get the same type of pill as the one I had been on, and that I didn’t want Triquilar again. And then he told me that, actually, he is a “doctor of internal medicine” (whatever that means exactly), and that he didn’t know anything about medicine for women. He told me he basically had no idea what he was looking at, and therefore he couldn’t prescribe anything for me.
He wasn’t all bad though. He then proceeded to draw me a map of the nearest gynaecologist. So, I left the clinic without having paid anything for the doctor’s time, and attempted to follow the map. Actually, it was a very good map, and I was there in no time. It was around 5pm and I had no idea what time they opened until, but I had come too far to give up now!
Entering the clinic, I instantly felt like I was in the right place. I’ve never been to a gynaecologist, but it was pretty much as I expected – very feminine and pink! I approached the counter and faced the first hurdle – did they speak English? No. Ok… So I attempted to explain the reason for my visit in broken Japanese. I took out the Microgynon 30 packet only. “Kore hoshii.” I said (I want this.) They looked puzzled, and asked me if that was medicine from a foreign country. I told them it was. They looked ready to show me the door, so I pulled out the Triquilar packet and attempted to explain. “Ah… Piru.” The nurse kept saying. Yes, yes, I want the pill, but I don’t want the Triquilar one.
They couldn’t understand what I was trying to say about the Microgynon and the Triquilar being different. I know my Japanese needs a lot of work, but was it really so hard to understand?? I tried to keep calm and basically kept repeating what I was saying. I didn’t know any other way. I said something like, (pointing at the Microgynon packet) “kore wa, mai nichi, onaji kusuri, onaji iro” (these, every day, the same medicine, the same colour), (pointing at the Triquilar packet) “kore wa, mai nichi, onaji janai, onaji iro janai” (these, every day, not the same, not the same colour).
By now, there were 3 nurses trying to understand me, and one male doctor who just kept passing by in the background. Didn’t all of you people have to study English at school?, I found myself thinking. I don’t want to be someone who expects people to speak English in Japan, but you would think in a clinic in a large city, someone would speak a little bit. Then, all of a sudden, the older nurse attempted a few words, very reluctantly. She kept looking at me like I was a piece of gum stuck to her shoe that she couldn’t quite shake off, though.
Anyway, this post is becoming a rant, so I’ll cut to the chase. The nurse who now apparently spoke English pulled out a pamphlet for Marvelon 21 (in English!), and it appeared to be just the same deal as Microgynon 30 and Ovranette. I was so relieved by this point that I could have cried (that may be the Triquilar talking though…). At first, it seemed the nurse wanted to give me just one sample pack. I couldn’t bear the thought of having to come back any time soon, so I asked “kaemasuka?” (can I buy it?). She whipped out a calculator and told me that one pack cost 3150 Yen – how many would I like? Seriously, after all this palaver was it going to be as easy as that? I hesitantly asked if I could buy 6 packs, and without a blink she rang it up.
Did you notice anything strange? Yes, that’s right, they didn’t even examine me. In fact, she didn’t ask to see my insurance card, she didn’t take my name, she didn’t ask me any health-related questions. She just sold me 6 packs of a pill I have never taken before and sent me on my way!
Don’t get me wrong, I’m certainly not complaining. Hell, she even told me I could go back and buy more when they run out. But, isn’t that just a little bit strange?
I hope this post doesn’t put any of you women off living in Japan. I’m sure in large cities like Tokyo you wouldn’t have to face these problems. But, if you’re planning to live in a smaller city, just be prepared, ok? I guess I could have taken a Japanese friend along with me, but I like to try to figure stuff out on my own. However, I do wish my Japanese had been better today! Mind you, even if it had been, I think my day may have been similar. The pill just isn’t as widely accepted here and, therefore, getting it is not exactly a piece of cake. Also, I did feel a certain amount of “oh no, a gaijin just walked in” today, which I don’t often feel here.
Do any of you women have other stories to share? I’d be interested to hear them! I really admire those of you who have lived here a long time and had babies and stuff – I don’t know how you managed all those visits to the doctor/gynaecologist!! 😉
Footnote: I have just had a closer look at the pills I bought and discovered she actually showed me the leaflet for Marvelon 21 and sold me Marvelon 28! I think it’s almost the same though – just has 7 fake pills, right? Geez….